2011 marks several anniversaries besides Kansas sesquicentennial

01/09/2011 12:00 AM

01/14/2011 8:46 AM

From hamburger homecomings to celebrated cheers, 2011 will bring Kansans plenty of reasons to celebrate. While much of Kansas may be focused this year on celebrating the state's 150th anniversary, there will be plenty of other anniversaries we Kansans will be noting.

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War — when states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana seceded from the Union.

The year 2011 marks the 125th anniversary of the KU's "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" yell.

But the best news is that the year 2011 marks the year when the popular hamburger chain White Castle finally returns to its roots, albeit for a short time.

The hamburger chain, which started in Wichita, is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

To celebrate the anniversary in March, White Castle hopes to bring several mobile kitchens to downtown Wichita and cook the famous hamburgers which affectionately have been named by their fans over the years as "gutbombs," "Whiteys," "sliders," "roachburgers," "Castles," "Whitey one-bites" and "belly busters."

"We really want to make something like that happen," said Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle System Inc., Columbus, Ohio.

"As we celebrate 90 years, it is fitting to pay tribute to the place we started," Richardson said. "It gave us the environment and time of place that allowed us to be company that still has the principles we began with."

In 1921, two Wichitans — Walt Anderson and Edgar Waldo "Billy Ingram" created White Castle, America's oldest hamburger chain.

Their hamburger buildings were inspired by the design of Chicago's Water Tower — in the shape of a castle.

Anderson had been making hamburgers since 1916 — and created what many believe were the beginnings of hamburgers as we now know them.

Anderson's hamburgers were made by pressing ground meat into a patty; punching holes to let the aroma come through; placing the patty on a grill with onions and pickles on top; and then serving the burgers on a dinner-roll-sized bun to absorb the juice.

In 1933, White Castle headquarters was moved from Wichita to Columbus, Ohio.

Today there are no White Castles in Kansas. The last one in Wichita closed in 1938.

To celebrate 90 years, the company is producing a documentary on the company's history and is hoping to interview people who may have worked in Wichita's White Castles.

"We realize most of those people may be 80 to 95 years old," said Bill Uhre, the documentary's producer. "But I've got a feeling there might be one or two out there — or who have children who could tell their stories."

For people who might have family stories to share about White Castle, contact Uhre by e-mail at mags@cbub.com or call him at 918-408-0578.

Other anniversaries of note next year include the 125th anniversary of Wichita's Fire Department and of the Greater Wichita YMCA.

The Wichita Art Museum continues its 75th anniversary celebration through July.

And this next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wichita River Festival, and Music Theatre of Wichita.

And, on March 26, the Wichita Grand Opera will host a 10th anniversary gala concert, "There's No Place Like Home" with Samuel Ramey, Joyce DiDonato and Alan Held.

The year 2011 marks the 30th anniversary for the Lake Afton Observatory, said Robert Henry, assistant director of the Fairmount Center for Science and Mathematics Education.

The weekend of June 10-11, Lake Afton's observatory is hosting an event honoring three decades of celestial watching, plus there will be other events throughout the year, Henry said.

Nov. 18 marks the 100th anniversary of Wichita's downtown Rotary Club.

The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1961, as part of the Kansas Centennial Celebration, will host its 50th anniversary this year.

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